World’s medievalists to convene virtually during annual congress | WMU News

Contact: Deanne Puca

Dr. Sharon Kinoshita

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Medieval scholars from around the world will meet virtually from Monday through Saturday, May 10 to 15, for the 56th celebration of the Western Michigan University International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Typically held on campus but moved to a virtual format during the COVID-19 pandemic, the event is hosted by Western’s Medieval Institute and has attracted professional scholars, most with university appointments; students; independent scholars; librarians; museum curators and other medieval studies enthusiasts.

Session topics this year range from historical sword fighting, reflections on the death of saint and martyr Thomas Becket, language and writing in the eastern Mediterranean and the study of past pandemics. The sessions are in a variety of formats, many taking the form of a series of academic paper presentations. Others are panel discussions, roundtables, demonstrations and workshops.

Special events include two plenary lectures, the annual lecture on the reception of the classics and a virtual talent show. View the program.

It is not the traditional format for the congress, which in the past has attracted thousands to campus to mingle, visit and purchase medieval books and sundries from vendors. Still, organizers plan to immerse participants in medieval culture and connect them to others with similar interests and intellectual curiosity, says Medieval Institute Director Dr. Jana K. Schulman.

“We’ve created a truly interactive experience, including features that facilitate making connections with other registrants outside of the context of the academic program,” says Shulman. “With six days of events live on the internet followed by two weeks in which more than 200 sessions recorded during the week of live events are available to registrants, the 56th congress promises a cornucopia for all those interested in the Middle Ages.”

Dr. Wendy Laura Belcher

Dr. Wendy Laura Belcher

All events—live and prerecorded—including sessions, the virtual Exhibits Hall and the virtual talent show, are available exclusively to those registered for the congress. Online registration is open through Saturday, May 29, which is the last day recorded sessions will be available to view. Kalamazoo County residents may register for a reduced fee of $5.

Special plenary lectures

Special plenary lectures are prerecorded and available for congress registrants May 10-15 and May 17-29.

  • “Marco Polo and the Diversity of the Global Middle Ages,” presented by Dr. Sharon Kinoshita, University of California, Santa Cruz, and sponsored by the Medieval Academy of America.
  • “The Black Queen of Sheba: A Global History of an African Idea,” presented by Dr. Wendy Laura Belcher, Princeton University and sponsored by Medieval Institute Publications and De Gruyter.

Reception of the Classics in the Middle Ages Lecture

  • “Passion, Personification, Sickness, Sin: Brooding on Envy in the Aetas Covidiana,” presented by Dr. Danuta Shanzer, Universität Wien, with a response by Dr. David Konstan, New York University.

Virtual talent show

Upload a short video to the virtual talent show from May 7- 15, and the video will be made available to congress registrants within two days. Participants can express themselves through music, spoken word, dance, visual art, costumes and more. Videos remain available for viewing by congress registrants until Saturday, May 29.

Dr. Danuta Shanzer

Dr. Danuta Shanzer

Virtual Exhibits Hall

As part of the integrated virtual experience of the congress, the Exhibits Hall showcases a diverse international selection of academic presses, artisans, used booksellers and purveyors of medieval sundries. Wander through their “booths” to check out exclusive sales, flip through the latest catalogs and ask questions about their offerings. Registrants can set up private appointments to meet with individual exhibitors, attend live events or scan their virtual badge to share contact information with exhibitors or enter raffles from May 10–15. Spend a few minutes or a few hours exploring: The Exhibits Hall is open May 7-29, with around-the-clock access no matter the time zone.

57th Congress

Because of continuing uncertainties regarding the pandemic and its effect on travel, the 57th congress will be held virtually, live on the internet, Monday, May 9, through Saturday, May 14, 2022.

The portal for session proposals is now open through Tuesday, June 1.

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